Brittney Griner replace: Russian court hears appeal

The Houston native and WNBA star was convicted Aug. 4 after police stated they discovered vape canisters containing hashish oil in her baggage at Moscow’s airport.

MOSCOW, Russia — A Russian court on Tuesday began listening to American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal towards her nine-year jail sentence for drug possession.

Griner, an eight-time all-star middle with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 after police stated they discovered vape canisters containing hashish oil in her baggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Griner is collaborating within the session held on the Moscow Regional Court through video name from a penal colony exterior Moscow the place she is being held.

Griner’s February arrest got here at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, simply days earlier than Russia despatched troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner was returning to Russia, the place she performed in the course of the U.S. league’s offseason.

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Griner admitted that she had the canisters in her baggage, however testified that she had inadvertently packed them in haste and that she had no prison intent. Her protection group offered written statements that she had been prescribed hashish to deal with ache.

The nine-year sentence was near the utmost of 10 years, and Griner’s legal professionals argued after the conviction that the punishment was extreme. They stated in related instances defendants have acquired a mean sentence of about 5 years, with a few third of them granted parole.

Before her conviction, the U.S. State Department declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained” — a cost that Russia has sharply rejected.

Reflecting the rising strain on the Biden administration to do extra to carry Griner house, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the weird step of showing publicly in July that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner house, together with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

Blinken didn’t elaborate, however The Associated Press and different information organizations have reported that Washington has supplied to trade Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms vendor who’s serving a 25-year sentence within the U.S. and as soon as earned the nickname the “merchant of death.”

The White House stated it has not but acquired a productive response from Russia to the provide.

Russian diplomats have refused to touch upon the U.S. proposal and urged Washington to debate the matter in confidential talks, avoiding public statements.

In September, U.S. President Joe Biden met with Cherelle Griner, the spouse of Brittney Griner, in addition to the participant’s agent, Lindsay Colas. Biden additionally sat down individually with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister.

The White House stated after the conferences that the president pressured to the households his “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”

The Biden administration carried out a prisoner swap in April, with Moscow releasing Marine veteran Trevor Reed in trade for the U.S. releasing a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted in a drug trafficking conspiracy.

Moscow additionally has protested the arrest of one other Russian presently in U.S. custody, Alexander Vinnik, who was accused of laundering billions of {dollars} through a bootleg cryptocurrency trade. Vinnik had been in custody in Greece after being arrested there in 2017 at U.S. request earlier than being extradited to the U.S. in August. It wasn’t clear if Russia would possibly demand Vinnik’s launch as a part of a possible swap.

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